When we first started the Shoko Press blog, our founder Tapiwa Matsinde wrote a piece on the Luxury of Pursuing a Creative Career in Africa and the challenges and questioning expressions she faced when choosing to do so. But with the explosion in African creativity now being felt on a global scale choosing to become a creative is becoming more acceptable, albeit slowly, and it struck her just how many respected African creatives switched careers to become fashion designers, artists, and writers having initially studied the ‘respectable subjects’ to be accountants, lawyers, bankers, doctors and so forth. So if you are thinking of switching careers to follow your creative passion, but are unsure of where to start, here Tapiwa shares some tips to help you work out if taking the step is right for you:
- Start out as a side hustle. Quitting your job before you have a viable business is not recommended, rather explore your passion as a side hustle to work out whether it is just hobby or has the potential to become something more. And yes working the 9-5 then 5-9 is tiring, but as long as you are moving in the right direction, the sacrifice will prove worth it in the end. And be sure to seek constructive criticism, and no from family and friends does not count because they are too close to you to be truly objective.
- Separate the dream from reality. Visions of creating that great industry changing product or having everyone wear your designs can lull us into a false sense of security, but the reality is much different as the stories of well known designers taking years of trying before anyone knew who they were tell us. It is very important that you be realistic about the challenges you will face in turning your passion into a career. Finding a mentor or seeking out a networking group in your area of interest can help you sound ideas and give you an insight into your area of interest. Whilst everyone’s journey is different speaking to a few who are doing the same thing you want to do can highlight common challenges and experiences to help you prepare and respond to them once you start. So be sure to ask questions to find out what is involved, to hear about the challenges and the rewards, the investment and time needed and so forth.
- Do you your research. Read industry magazines to get yourself up to speed on the latest trends and developments, find out who the key players are and what makes them stand out, attend conferences, visit trade shows, craft fairs and markets making sure to look a the differences in selections, quality, style, presentation. I was once told this statement, “sometimes you need to go backwards to go forwards”.
- What skills will you need. Do you need to go back to school to sharpen your skills or learn more about your passion. If so would this mean either picking up a full time course that will take a few years or do you just need a short course or two to bring you up to speed. What ever career you are in we never stop learning, however if you are switching careers there are some skills you may require you having to go back to school for a while say fir example you want to become a patisserie chef.
- Document your thoughts. Do this by keeping a journal or scrapbook, or even better start a blog or vlog, which will serve to build up some interest in what you are planning to do before you dive straight into producing a complete collection of designs. Engaging you audience will help them get to know you and vice versa. And you can test out ideas and prototypes on them to get valuable feedback. If you need some guide on starting a blog for business read this post Tapiwa wrote on the subject here.
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Switching careers takes courage and will never be easy, but with the increasing lack of job security and financial uncertainty in our world, and technology making learning a new skill and/or starting up a business much more accessible, the reality is that switching careers has become more commonplace. And this presents some exciting opportunities for those who are willing to explore.
– Tapiwa Matsinde